The acronym ‘DFU’ or ‘Detail Follow UP’ is one of the many terms thrown around in the world of healthcare market research. Typically DFUs are seen by many as a ‘standardised’ methodology; involving reading out a list of campaign messages to the customer and testing level of recall, and then asking them to rate each message. In this environment, it’s easy to see why the unfortunate DFU is often dismissed as an approach with little need for imagination or creative input. But at HRW, sales follow-up research is regarded as no mere ‘set in stone’ methodology. Here we endeavour to go ‘beyond the DFU’, whilst still respecting its core objective – to assess sales force efficacy.

At HRW, we recognise that clients do need to capture message recall, but we also appreciate that the changing market context has meant that the traditional DFU may no longer be as relevant or useful as in the past. For one thing, sales forces are getting smaller, which means communication needs to be smarter. Communications and interactions with customers are much more multifaceted and complex, and call tailoring is just as important as message delivery.

For these reasons, message recall is not on its own an indicator of success, it is more holistic and nuanced. And these market changes mean we need to change our research approach too. Well, we do love a challenge!

We recently used this approach for a DFU at HRW. Using a semi-structured approach to qualitative interviews, we were able to prioritise the human interaction, rapport generation, and open-ended questioning. We found the respondents enjoyed the discussion and were interested, in turn making them more engaged when it came to measuring the standardised parameters that are essential for a DFU. This also gave us the opportunity to really probe and question their responses to access reality. And so it kept us engaged too.

We didn’t just interview healthcare professionals, we also spoke to other stakeholders to gain a full 360 degree view of the campaign, a fascinating method of assessing the chain of communication from head office right down to customers.

In order to back up our findings with a quantitative assessment, we conducted the qualitative component in conjunction with a brief online survey to further understand how the product in question is viewed by customers within the competitive context.

Finally, in partnership with our clever (and comedic) in-house Analytics team we conducted a number of validated analytic techniques, which often can be performed with relatively few quantitative questions being included. This added an extra layer of analysis, helping us to strengthen our insight yet further.

For this project, we were able to really deliver for our client ‘beyond the DFU’ and get to the heart of what is important to customers, by digging further than just their initial reactions. The approach enabled us to support deeper qualitative insights with robust quantitative data, ultimately allowing us to build a comprehensive picture of sales call performance, that really fed in to our clients’ future campaign strategy. Best of all, we enjoyed conducting the research and the results were really meaningful; It’s not all rating scales you know!


By Faye Holmes and Lucy Wates


Apply Now!

Get in touch:

    I would like to receive news and information from HRW
    I agree to the HRW privacy policy

      Sign up to our newsletter

      If you wish to hear about our latest blogs, podcasts, webinars, and team news, simply enter your email to sign up to our monthly newsletter.


      We use cookies to give you the best possible experience. We can also use it to analyze the behavior of users in order to continuously improve the website for you. Data Policy

      analytical Essential